Riverfront eatery to be resurrected

Lake Brazos Bar & Grill may soon have a new owner. (Waco Tribune-Herald via Associated Press)
Lake Brazos Bar & Grill may soon have a new owner. (Waco Tribune-Herald via Associated Press)
Lake Brazos Bar & Grill may soon have a new owner.
(Waco Tribune-Herald via Associated Press)

By J.B. Smith
Waco Tribune-Herald via Associated Press

A Waco developer has bought the shuttered Lake Brazos Bar and Grill and says he plans to turn it into a destination restaurant, inspired by the construction of Baylor Stadium downstream.

Developer Rick Sheldon confirmed this week that his firm, Brazos River Partners, bought the former steakhouse in the last month for an undisclosed sum from Community Bank and Trust. The bank had acquired the property in a December foreclosure auction to pay off a defaulted loan.

Sheldon said he is shopping for the right restaurateur and concept for the riverfront restaurant, but he hopes to see it open this year. He envisions boaters stopping there for dinner before heading to games downstream at the Baylor Stadium, which opens in 2014.

“One of our main motivations is to make something on the river before the stadium opens,” he said. “It will be a place where when your mom and dad come to town you can have a margarita and watch the sunset.”

Local health authorities closed Lake Brazos Bar and Grill in September for numerous health violations, and owner Shane Morgan decided not to reopen it, saying business had declined. Morgan tried to sell the property for about $1.5 million, but he got behind on loan payments and the bank foreclosed on the property.

Along with Buzzard Billy’s, Lake Brazos Bar and Grill was one of only two restaurants on the Brazos River in Waco. Built in 1983, it has a large deck overlooking Cameron Park across the Brazos.

“I think it’s one of the best patios in Waco,” said Chris McGowan, urban development director for the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a great place to hang out and always has been. I know Rick will do a great job. His vision for Waco and the river is one I share. I’m excited to work with him to see it through.”

Sheldon said he envisions an outdoor atmosphere at the new restaurant that will echo restaurants such as the Katy Trail Ice House in Dallas and The Oasis on Lake Travis near Austin. He said he is talking with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about rebuilding a flood-damaged boat dock at the restaurant to make it river-accessible.

Sheldon is known for developing large shopping centers in other cities, but in recent years he has turned his attention to the Brazos in Waco, where he lives. He and a partner own the riverfront property at Franklin Avenue and University Parks Drive, which they are marketing for a major hotel. They are also planning to bid on city-owned land on the Brazos where a large-scale development is envisioned.